When Should You Stop Driving?---Telltale Signs and Clues
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When Should You Stop Driving? -- Telltale Signs and Clues

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February 17, 2014
By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Too old to drive?  That's the question people may be asking about you even if you haven't quite faced the prospect yourself. Or, you may have a loved one who just loves to drive but who is showing signs of decline. How do you know when it's time to hand in the keys?

Older drivers are the fastest-growing segment of the US driving population, according to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

By 2020 there will be around 40 million drivers on the road aged over 65, according to the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and Medical Center.

Older people are keeping their licenses longer and with the tidal wave  of Baby Boomers here already, older drivers are making up a greater proportion of all people on the roads than ever before.

The number of licensed drivers 70 and older increased 27 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

And, with many more senior drivers on the road that means more accidents, right? After all, male drivers are four times more likely to die as a result of an auto crash at 80 years old than at 20 (Traffic Safety, Science Servicing Society, 2004).

Concern about older drivers' safety record is at an all-time high. But it can be hard to talk to a loved one about driving and many people leave it too late; when driving becomes dangerous. Or perhaps you're the one getting older and becoming concerned about your driving, but you don't want to give up your independence. Is there an age when you should no longer get behind the wheel? What are the key signs that you should take the bus instead?

Deaths from  Older Drivers -What Are the Facts?

While many (younger) people believe that older drivers are the cause of a disproportionate amount of road accidents, it isn't completely true that older drivers are involved in more auto crashes.

Drivers aged 65 and over are only one-third more likely than drivers aged between 15 and 24 to cause road accidents, and they are no more likely than drivers aged 25 to 64, according to a 2007 study from RAND Corporation.

Those drivers that continue to be behind the wheel after the age of 65 may be safer than the general public believes. Younger drivers, by far, pose the greatest risk to safety on the roads.

In the study researchers found people aged 65 and above made up around 15 percent of the driving population but caused only around 7 percent of accidents.

Those aged 15 to 24 made up just 13 percent of the population but caused 43 percent of accidents.
However, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal crash rates start to rise after the age of 70.

But the over-representation of older drivers in death crashes is more due to their frailty and poor health than a lesser driving ability, according to researchers at the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Toronto, Canada (2012).

In addition, more crashes involving older drivers show up in police reports because they are more likely to involve injury to the senior driver and because they usually involve more than one vehicle.

Older drivers are mostly a danger to themselves and their passengers, where they are typically older too - 77 percent of the people killed in crashes involving a driver over 70 were the driver themselves or their older passenger.

Age is Just a Number: Age Does Not Predict Driving Ability

However, that is not to say that you shouldn't pay attention to you driving as you get older, or that an older driver is automatically safe to drive.

While a person doesn't become a bad driver overnight when they turn 65, or 70, older drivers are encouraged to self-regulate their own driving in order to protect themselves and others, according to a 2014 report from Queensland's QUT Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety, Australia.

Decisions regarding suitability to drive should not be based on a person's age alone, but on a number of factors that affect safe driving such as vision, physical fitness, reflexes, and cognitive sharpness.

What are the Telltale Signs You Should Stop Driving?

Ask yourself the following questions, developed by the USAA Educational Foundation, AARP, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or ask them of your loved one:

"    Have friends or family expressed concerns about your driving?
"    Do you get lost on routes that were once familiar?
"    Have you recently been pulled over and warned about your poor driving behavior?
"    Have you had several near-misses or actual crashes in the last three years?
"    Has your doctor advised you to reduce or give up your driving?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, read on to discover more about the reasons you perhaps shouldn't be getting behind the wheel any more.

To help you or a relative maintain independence while keeping safe, we've put together the ultimate list of signs and clues you need to stop driving.

Declining Vision

A decrease in vision is a key factor for older Americans when they consider it's time to stay off the road. This is according to the 2009 Salisbury Eye Evaluation and Driving Study (SEEDS) from John Hopkins University.

Although there is no real evidence to link poor vision in seniors with increased car accidents, screening schemes have reduced the number of older drivers that die from auto crashes in many areas, including in Florida, according to a 2008 report from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The vision screening law is for drivers over the age of 80 and is carried out on renewal of a driving license. Between 2001 and 2006 deaths from auto accidents rose in Florida but they dropped in drivers aged over 80 since the law was introduced.

In neighboring states Alabama and Georgia, where there is no such screening test, there was no change in the death rate for older drivers.

Do you:
"    Have problems reading signs on the highway or street?
"    Have difficulties seeing lane markings, vehicles and pedestrians, especially at dusk or night?
"    Suffer discomfort from headlight glare when driving at night?
You can:
"    Always wear your glasses and make sure the prescription is up to date. Get regular vision checks.
"    Avoid driving at dawn, dusk or at night.
"    Keep your windshield clean and the instrument panel well-lit.
"    Sit high enough in your seat to reduce glare.

Diminishing Physical Fitness

Driving a car may seem like a passive and entirely effort-free occupation, particularly with power steering and other electronic assists, but a reduction in physical fitness can actually affect how well you drive and your likelihood of avoiding an accident.

Do you:
"    Have problems looking over your shoulder when you change lanes or check for traffic?
"    Have trouble moving your foot on the pedals?
"    Suffer pain or discomfort when moving the steering wheel?

If you are not physically active and walk less than one block a day, have difficulty raising your arms above your shoulders, or cannot walk comfortably down or up stairs, consider that your physical capabilities are diminished.
You can increase your fitness - get involved in a medically approved walking and stretching regime - and drive a car with automatic transmission in order to keep driving for longer.

Do You Have a Reduced Attention and Reaction Time?

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